In today’s professional world, people are craving effective leadership. What maybe
misattributed as generational gaps is that everywhere, middle level managers and their team members are overburdened and uninspired by individuals holding titled positions of leadership providing neither effective leadership nor effective management. The issue is not change resistance. Peter Senge said it well, “People do not resist change. They resist being changed.” Knowledge based workers desire true leadership that capitalizes on collaboration, communication and connection to accomplish their work related goals and objectives.
One of the strongest ways an influential leader can connect with others is by practicing the principle of followership. Followership is a leader’s willingness to listen to those for whom they are responsible. “Listening to me” is the highest rated attribute for an effective leader by direct reports. Effective listening creates a connection between the leader and the legitimate needs, wants, and desires of team members. By paying attention to members of the team, through active listening, a leader gains insight and information to the factors that drive performance. Peter Drucker said, “Everybody writes books about leadership. Somebody ought to write a book about followership, because for every leader there are a thousand followers.” Although followership is an age-old concept and several books have been written about it, the concept is still a novelty to many in titled positions of authority.
People do not quit their jobs. They quit their leader – the boss. Ineffective leaders breed ineffective followers and performance and productivity suffer as a result. With a positive, emotional connection with your people you send a clear message that you are interested and invested in what your people experience on a daily basis. People in general do not follow just anyone or follow out of the goodness of their heart. They need good reasons—a motivation – to follow. You are responsible for giving them those reasons by understanding what they want and need to fulfill their work requirements and contribute to a mutual and beneficial meaningful purpose in their work. During the downturn in the so-called bubble, many leaders have acquired what the professional literature is calling learned helplessness. Everything is negative, we have a “new normal” and the positive and optimistic qualities of leadership seem to be caught in this self-fulfilling prophecy of scarcity and mediocrity. As leaders infect this mindset into their teams, productivity and other performance factors wane. The team members get caught in a brain-funk – simply do whatever the leader says to keep their jobs and stay out of trouble with the boss.
The reality is that inwardly, people still want to make a difference at work. They want leaders who will give them control and emancipate them to do their jobs and solve problems at their level. For some of you this may seem like a radical idea –giving control away – and a deviation from the historical “top-down” driven approach to leadership. However, if you want to connect, if you desire to become an influential leader, you have to begin to change from the outdated and ineffective practices of the past that limit your leadership capacity. As leaders we should be asking ourselves daily, is my behaviour drawing people towards me or away from me? Understanding the elements of what endears our team members to us is essential to understanding the great impact that connection has in driving performance in the workplace.
The art of connection begins with the skill of Positive Presence, an innovative thought model connecting workplace behaviour to human energy through a systematic, programmatic methodology equipping leaders with the knowledge and understanding necessary for developing and sustaining the mindset and behaviour skills needed for strong and lasting connections.